NorthSide was blessed by cloudless electric blue skies and great performances

NorthSide 2014 review

published: Thu 19th Jun 2014

around the festival site

Friday 13th to Sunday 15th June 2014
Soren Frichs Road, Aarhus, Jutland, Denmark MAP
1320 DKK (approx £150) for 3 days - SOLD OUT
daily capacity: 30000
last updated: Thu 15th May 2014

Looking out across the glittering lights of Aarhus after the sun had set over thousands of pitched red Danish roofs, it was hard to say goodbye to Northside 2014.

Queens of the Stone Age closed the bill on Sunday night, completing a final day of stellar performances from some impressively high-profile acts.

This year’s festival in Denmark’s second largest city was blessed by cloudless electric blue skies, unbroken sunshine and cooling sea breezes, while the likes of Arcade Fire, Pixies, The National, Jurassic 5, and Lana Del Rey joined Josh Homme’s Californian rockers and a host of Danish acts in a bumper line-up for a festival of such modest proportions.

QOTSA were committed and engaging from the get-go, spot-on renditions of 'No One  Knows', 'Feel Good Hit of The Summer' and 'Go With The Flow' evidence of a band expertly schooled in entertaining an expectant crowd.

Troy Van Leeuwen exchanged furious riffs with Homme beneath ruby red halogen lights, as they powered through a fulsome greatest hits set. The smooth 'I Sat By The Ocean', all lilting guitar lines and funky bass, and the minor-key piano of 'The Vampyre of Time and Memory' served reminders that the Queens are no desert rock one-trick ponies, either. Homme remains a diversely talented musician who continues to move with the times.

And he won the crowd over further when he paused to bark “look at me, look at me!” at an over-zealous security guard ordering a harmless fan to get down from a friend’s shoulders before telling him to leave the fan be.

Friday headliners The National proved similarly accomplished, treating Northside to a greatest hits set that leant heavily on most recent albums 'High Violet' and 'Trouble Will Find Me'.

Matt Berninger’s velvety baritone cut across the cool night sky, after they opened with the yearning slide guitar textures of 'Don’t Swallow The Cap' at 1am.

Twins Aaron and Bryce Dessner cloaked the vocals in swathes of gorgeously melancholic clean guitar tones throughout a 19-song set of consistent quality.
'Bloodbuzz Ohio', 'Afraid Of Everyone', and the lengthy, slow-building 'About Today' - with its mournful violins - were the highlights as the Ohio band neared the final straight of a year of almost-constant touring, with Berninger as usual spending a fair chunk of time in the crowd and emerging looking typically immaculate and dashing.

The festival had opened 12 hours previously with crowds filing towards the site, along the banks of the River Aarhus. Impromptu parties sprang up, everyone seemed healthy and sun-kissed, and festival-goers joined in with salsa dancing sessions and barbecues, while others whizzed across the water on zipwires.

Inside, the site was always spotlessly clean, almost entirely free of corporate branding, and featured altruistic innovations such as a ‘take something, leave something’ table and a free hair styling tent.

For a parallel to a British city festival, imagine Reading and Leeds for a second. Northside is absolutely nothing like that.

The early parts of each day were dominated by Danish bands, with Friday’s first international act Bombay Bicycle Club. Their sprightly calypso rhythms and trebly guitar rushes got a sizable gathering in front of the Beat Stage dancing and singing along. The end of closing number 'Carry Me' was met with a well-deserved hearty roar from the Danes.

Franz Ferdinand did exactly as we’ve come to expect, trading in daft, fairly meaningless throwaway pop with choreographed dancing and empty rock ‘n’ roll cliches aplenty before a brooding after-dark performance by Lana Del Rey set up The National just nicely.

Saturday saw Scandinavian heroes Royksopp and Robyn’s electronic mood music provide the  headline attraction, after a grand, expansive set by Danish band Mew, who were playing their first set with original bassist Johan Wohler for eight years.

While British music fans may find their emotive rock, laden with strings, most closely related to acts such as Coldplay or Snow Patrol, their closing number - 'Comforting Sounds' - provided a stirring moment and was massively popular on home soil.

But the day ultimately belonged to Jurassic 5 after a storming tea-time set. Celebrating their 20th anniversary, the American hip-hop institution showcased brilliantly dexterous MCing - the interplay between Chali 2na and co almost telepathic, while DJ Nu-Mark and Cut Chemist fired out beats, samples and scratching and played a series of bizarre improvised instruments, including a giant, scratchable turntable and a record-deck guitar.

Chemist got the biggest cheer of the day from the crowd when he played the riff to Deep Purple’s Smoke on The Water on the latter.

'Concrete Schoolyard' lifted the party up another notch, and against a backdrop of brilliant sunshine, J5 had the Danish crowd dancing away as if their lives depended on it.

Earlier, Brighton two-piece Royal Blood gave evidence that the hype surrounding them may be warranted, with an uncompromising early-afternoon set on the same stage.

The lack of a guitarist did not deter the English band, Mike Kerr tearing a bewilderingly brutal array of riffs from a collection of cool basses fed through an ingenious pedalboard set-up.

'Little Monster' was a downright filthy, fuzzy blues assault, the sun coming out at its crescendo and sending an increasingly rapt audience wild.

The duo ended the set with a blistering Out of the Black, with drummer Ben Thatcher standing up throughout an extended outro to batter the living daylights out of his cymbals before kicking them over as Royal Blood exited to wailing feedback and huge acclaim.

Northside’s three stages are programmed alternately, ensuring that few acts clash, so we were able to follow Royal Blood with Pixies and Arcade Fire before QOTSA’s closing performance.

Pixies were in fine form, towering hits such as 'Bone Machine', 'Wave of Mutilation', 'Trying To Reach You', 'Gouge Away', 'Mr Greaves', 'Debaser' and 'Here Comes Your Man' rolling back the years and reminding everyone present that Black Francis, Joey Santiago and the now-replaced Kim Deal were responsible for some of the most urgent, sonically creative alternative rock songs of the past 30 years.

Songs from comeback album 'Indie Cindy' - 'Greens and Blues', 'Magdalena 318' and 'Bagboy' - were delivered with similar waspish focus, yet the reaction from a tepid crowd is low-key throughout their set.

Arcade Fire, on the Green Stage, were far more flamboyant, the stage filled with extravagantly dressed musicians, and multi-coloured ticker tape exploding from cannons into the Aarhus dusk.

But it felt a little like style over substance as the funked-up basslines and shuffling Caribbean rhythms of songs such as 'Here Comes The Night Time' from last year’s 'Reflektor' album turned into a mid-tempo disco drudge.

The sweeping strings of 'No Cars Go', followed by the epic 'Wake Up' and 'Rebellion (Lies)', provided a welcome upping of the ante, but the soon-to-be Glastonbury headliners flattered to deceive and it was clear that their earlier material is far more dynamic and visceral than that from Reflektor.

review by: Gary Walker

photos by: Steve Palmer

Friday 13th to Sunday 15th June 2014
Soren Frichs Road, Aarhus, Jutland, Denmark MAP
1320 DKK (approx £150) for 3 days - SOLD OUT
daily capacity: 30000
last updated: Thu 15th May 2014

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